Friday, April 30, 2010

Wheat starch?

Curious...would you eat something if had 'wheat starch' listed as an ingredient, yet you were told it was safe and gluten-free? Please let me know your thoughts.

I will add mine as well after I get some responses.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

GFIW: Swedish Fish, April 27

Swedish Fish...enough said.

Because sometimes you need something that has no redeeming health value, yet it is gluten-free and will satisfy a sweet craving. I like to keep these in my purse at all times...well, until I find Z takes them and hides them in her room to have a Swedish Fish extravaganza for one.

Enjoy a fish or 5!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Gluten-free product news: gluten-free Bisquick, Tribe hummus, and more...

General Mills is going to be debuting their new gluten-free Bisquick and Hamburger Helper at this year's Annual Celiac Disease Foundation Conference in LA on Saturday May 5th.

Now, while I will admit, I never would have eaten Bisquick before, nor hamburger Helper I still think this is exciting news for the gluten-free community! Not only does it show that a major company is spreading awareness, but it is providing something to the growing gluten-free population. This feels like a huge win, and hopefully other companies and even restaurants will follow suit, and mean that it will be readily available.

To read more about the Bisquick coup, read my article I wrote for here.

Secondly, yesterday I was craving hummus, but not near a Trader Joe's where I usually buy my hummus. TJ's hummus is so yummy! Anyway, my fall back has always been hummus by Tribe, yet when I went to pick some up I noticed the 'gluten-free' label is gone! (as seen below) I am thinking, why would a company take off a label to promote it is gluten free especially in a time when 'gluten-free' is a huge buzzword. And when the label comes off, it makes me think something is going on in the production that is not making it gluten-free anymore. And the last thing i want to do is to make myself sick.

So, while I am standing in the store, I take out my trusty iPhone and look up the web site, and on the web site it states it is dairy-free, soy-free, vegan and even kosher, but nothing about gluten. Hmmm..... It is a Saturday, so I can't call the company, which I have done many times while standing the grocery stores aisles. So, I buy it anyway, and will find out the answer at home. I sent the question out on Twitter and to the celiac listserv to see if anyone can help me. I received a couple of responses of people who said they eat it with no problem and they are usually very sensitive, and best of all, fellow gluten-free blogger Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom had the same question just a few weeks ago, and received reassurance from Tribe that it is the same recipe, they just changed their packaging. Why?? Who knows. But you can read more about it and see their response from Tribe here. I think I am going to indulge in my hummus as my afternoon snack today with some fresh cut bell pepper.

Happy Snacking!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Beautiful Game by Jackdaw4

And while we are on the topic of music....

This has absolutely nothing to do with celiac or gluten, but this is the latest video by our good friend's band, Jackdaw4, and not only is a great video, it is a really good song, that I have been singing to myself all day.

And Z is in it too!

The weighting game with a soundtrack

This weighting game is getting me down, but not in a good way. I want to see the scale go down, but it so damn stubborn. I will admit trying out bagels, muffins and cookies isn't the way to get it going. But I am so good about going to the gym and Zumba goodness, what would I be like if I wasn't going??

I had my annual physical last week and brought it since being diagnosed and after loosing a nice chunk of weight it came back and then some. I thought maybe I have an underactive thyroid or a blood sugar issue and all the tests come back normal. So frustrating.

I know I shouldn't, but I will go on the scale every morning, and it just not as satisfying as it was when I was younger when I tried to get in shape. Maybe the fact that I am 37, almost 38 is a factor. And then there is the irony of it all...that if I am going to TTC (try to get knocked up again), I want to be in great that I can gain weight all over again. But because of the pre-eclampsia and HELLP from having Z, I am terrified to go into another pregnancy in anything but perfect health. I want to make sure I have all the factors on my side before going into the great unknown for 9 months.

So on that note, I am going to get myself another Doodles peanut butter cookie, that I just whipped up, and list my current playlist for the gym:

Arcade Fire
Belle & Sebastian
The Faint
Florence and the Machine
La Roux
Radio 4
The Killers
Magic Numbers
Patrick Wolf
Queens of the Stone Age
Scissor Sisters
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
White Lies
The Zutons

What is on your playlist?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Would the planet implode??

Do you ever have those moments you just want to take a have something that smells so good literally inches from your face, you just want to remember what the texture and the flavor is like? Would sirens suddenly sound, would the world look different, would Doctor Who come and save me with his Tardis and sonic screwdriver?

Obviously I know what would happen, I would feel like crap. I would be in the fetal position in my covers in bed in tears. And let me preface by saying, I would NEVER actually give in to it, but it doesn't mean I don't wonder. It is bizarre when you think about it, that we are told that we can never eat a certain type of food ever again. After almost 36 years of eating a certain way and is banned, it is contraband, it is poison to my body. But I can have the occasional dream, can't I?

Yesterday as I was picking up Z from school, she had some homemade cookies given to her for someone's birthday. As I was buckling her in, she had one in her hand and was about to take a bite. It could not have been more than 2 inches from my nose...I could smell the cookie smell and see the texture that all gluten-free cookies strive for. Part of me wanted to snatch it in my mouth like a wild animal just to see if I could even remember what a wheat cookie tasted like.

But like a sitcom, I only imagined the wild animal part and then was brought back to my senses and reality. My daughter is such a good girl that she left her cookie in the car since she knows I do not like gluten items in the house. I am so lucky to have such a supportive husband and daughter. They sure help make this easier than it could be and for that I am eternally grateful.

And why is that people call gluten-based foods the "normal" food. Like "it tastes just like a real bagel!" or "I made pancakes that tasted like normal pancakes!" Who determines which ones are the normal and real ones? Is there a committee?? Can I be on it?? Maybe the "normal" or "real" food is what we eat and the gluten-filled foods are striving to be as good as our food.

I am going to go enjoy another Udi's blueberry muffin, because you know what...they are better than the "normal" ones!

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Eggplant parmesan and Mamma Mia!

Ok folks, be warned, this is not a healthy one, nor is it quick. Actually it pretty much makes a huge mess of the kitchen, I will kid you not. So why did I put it here? Because it is so damn good, mess, calories, time consumption and all. As long as you have ABBA, it is all good.

My dear friend, Amanda, gave me her recipe, and I made some changes to make it gluten-free friendly. This is a keeper my friends! But I will give you this tip...give yourself a few hours from start to finish. Don't do what I did, and start frying up the eggplant an hour before your child's bedtime...oops. Read the entire recipe before you start so you get an idea for timing.

There are 3 component of this recipe...1) the eggplant; 2) the sauce; and 3) putting it together. So I will lay it out as easy as possible.

The sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
28-oz can chunky tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp sugar
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan, add minced garlic and sauté for a minute. Add basil and sauté for another minute. Stir in the tomatoes and sugar and bring to a simmer. Cover and continue to simmer on low heat for flavors to blend.


2 large eggplants
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup of gluten-free bread crumbs (I use
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
Grapeseed or vegetable oil for frying
Peel and slice eggplant width-wise into round 1/4" thick slices.

Place slices in layers in a large strainer over a plate, lightly salting slices between layers.

Cover the strainer with a paper towel and place a heavy object on top (I used my blender) for about 1 hour to extract the bitter juices. Afterwards, squeeze press slice between paper towel to release any residual juice.

Preheat the oven at 350'F.

Combine eggs and milk in a bowl, whisk together.

Combine bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and oregano in shallow dish (pie plate works well).

Pour a thin layer of oil in a pan at medium to medium-high heat.

Dip eggplant in egg mixture, then dredge both sides in bread crumbs, and place in heated pan. Repeat for each slice and fry until golden. Place the slices on paper towels to blot any excess oil.
I like to prepare all the eggplant in the egg and bread crumbs first, place them on a plate and then start frying, but do whatever is easiest for you. If the oil starts getting messy, wipe with a clean paper towel, add more oil and continue frying.

Putting it together:

1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese
1/4 parmesan cheese
Once the eggplant slices are done, place some of the pasta sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. Place a layer of eggplant slices on top, then another spoonful of sauce on each slice (use sauce sparingly, just to flavor each slice). Sprinkle a 1/3 of the mozzarella, and repeat until you have used all the eggplant and top with the parmesan.

Cover dish with foil and bake at 350'F for 35 mintues, remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Serve with a side of pasta or a salad. Tonight, I served with Cornito noodles and topped it with some of the leftover sauce. Cornito pasta tastes just like egg noodles (a family favorite) and feels like what you would get with your eggplant parmesan in an old school Italian restaurant, you know the kind I am talking about. Of course a salad is refreshing and a bit healthier, but the pasta is just so good!

Buon Appetito!

Udi's Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Muffins

Because these are so sinfully delicious, and I want to shout it from the rooftops and play it from a boombox á la Say Anything, I have to put a link to my review here too!

Tomorrow, it will be breakfast with Udi's bagels with smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers...mmm...can't wait!! After a very long walk, of course.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Great time at the Gluten-Free Cooking Expo Vendor Fair

Yesterday was the annual Gluten-Free Cooking Expo and Vendor Fair in Chicago, IL..well, just outside Chicago in Lisle (which is right next to Naperville, where I grew up and spent 18 years of my life). I didn't have the opportunity to go to the cooking classes, but I did get to go the vendor fair. Last year I missed out completely and I was thrilled that I could make it this year.

M and Z came with me, and we all left very, very full and satisfied.

It is a good thing too, because we were rushing out of our house for a showing, and since I was running around trying to make sure the house smelled delicious and every single room was pristine, I had no time for breakfast. As soon as I walked in the ballroom hosting the vendor fair, I saw the Whole Foods tables and went straight there. Most of their items I have tasted before, and are all scrumptious, but best of all was the peach pie. Yummy!! And it only got better from there...with vendors providing endless cookies, snacks, pizza, ravioli and even Woodchuck Cider!

Z had a fun time in the kids area making crafts while M and I took turns checking out the goods. It was so great to see so many people and so many vendors supporting the same cause in one place. And how wonderful to be somewhere and not have to ask about every.single.ingredient. It was all safe, and felt so nice!

Best of all I got to meet some great people in person that I have been looking forward to meeting, including the event's organizer and very talented Jen Cafferty. Please ignore my disheveled look, I wish I realized I looked like I just rolled out of bed before I took this picture. She is extremely sweet, but also very busy and was nice enough to let me grab her long enough for this photo.

I think one of the most popular booth's must have been Udi's, it was never slow and people left with boxes of bread. I don't blame them, that bread is good stuff..better than good, it is freakin' amazing (to quote a man I heard coming out of the Expo, and with whom I agree)! And I was fortunate enough to meet Udi's Heather Collins, not only did she have her hands full with the fair's favorite bread, but she was super cool, and even took a second to get a picture with me so we could display their amazing bread. (Again, I look like I rolled out of bed)

I look forward to being able to meet up with Jen and Heather again when things are a bit more calm and we can actually chat. But being busy this weekend was a good thing, and it seems like the Expo was a huge success!

Some of my favorite goodies that I tried for the first time....Whole Food's peach pie, Conté's ravioli, Surf Sweets gummi bears, cookies from Gluten Free Mama (because you can never go wrong with almond flour!). These are just a few things from the many delicious treats I tried and doesn't even include my already current favorites like Udi's sandwich bread, Against the Grain bagels, Pamela's pancake and baking mix, Rose's Bakery biscotti and I could go on and on.

You know when your 5-year old refuses cookies and candy that you have no more. We did not leave there hungry, that's for sure.

Congratulations Jen on a successful event!

Asparagus & lemon linguine @ Noodles & Co.

I love, love, love asparagus, so when I saw Noodles & Co. had a new asparagus dish, I was all on that (after I confirmed it would be gluten-free if served with rice noodles).

First, I walked in my local Noodles & Co, and didn't recognize anyone. Usually I see the same people working there and know they understand the whole "gluten thing", but it made me nervous when it took the person taking my order 5 minutes to figure out how to put an 'allergen aware' order in. But, in the end, it worked out and I enjoyed my pasta. It was meh. The asparagus wasn't very flavorful, but I did really enjoy the sugar snap peas. Maybe it is because I had them 86 the 'shrooms and it was missing something.

It was nice to have a different dish, but I will stick with my regular, the pasta fresca with feta with broccoli added into it.

If you get a chance to try it let me know your thoughts.

I love asparagus is best grilled!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Glutened, yet again!

Only a month has gone by and it happened again, and even worse. So frustrating. And ironically, it happened just hours after my annual physical where I was telling me doctor how great I felt, and I wouldn't get near gluten again. After my appointment I am walking around Target in a great mood, and I pick up TrueNorth Almond Clusters. I had read before these were gluten-free, and checked the web site from my phone, and in their FAQ they state they are indeed gluten-free.

I get home and happily snack on a few, and within an hour, it starts....the stomach cramping, the burning feeling inside, nausea....and more.

I wouldn't normally suspect it was this since these clearly stated on their web site to be gluten-free, but the only other thing I ate was leftover homemade Indian dinner from the night before, and I usually feel the symptoms within the viola, it has to be the nut clusters. They were good, but the thought of them now, make me want to freakin' puke.

Friday nights are our pizza night, and we make homemade pizzas. And I hated having to disappoint Z, and she was crushed. She wanted me to feel better so badly, and tried to give me an orange to make me feel better, and all I could do is be grumpy and try to stay fetal under the covers in bed.

After 4 doses of Pepto, 3 cups of chamomile tea and hours of pain, I am starting to feel ok. It is times like this when it hits me that I really do have a disease and it feel so defeating and frustrating. It also makes me terrified of food, and I am someone who loves food (as if you couldn't tell). I mean, when something says it is gluten-free, you think you can trust it, and when you get sick it is terrifying. I would be terrified to feel like that if I am out. Like maybe I should just stay home, never eat anything packaged, and never eat outside the house again.

And why is it that before I was gluten-free...I had no symptoms, so I do the right thing and cut gluten out of my life, and now when I do get it, it is like a huge bonfire in my stomach.

When I am feeling the pain from gluten I feel like a failure and lost. The only upside...maybe I lost a couple of pounds. But it is definitely not worth the pain!

Looking forward to pizza night a day late and eating together as a family.

Red lentil saga, part 3

**Update 4/16**

My response from Bob's Red Mill marketing director, Matt Cox:

Dear Anne,

Regarding this problem with grains in the lentils, I hope you know how sorry we are for the experience you had with our product. We pride ourselves with our very high standards for purity but this one just slipped through our fingers.

We’ve done some serious sleuthing to find the root cause of these stowaway grains in our lentils and here’s what we found. The farmer that grows our lentils, rotates his crops every third year with wheat, which is what we determined to be the sort of grains you sent for our inspection. No matter how meticulous the farmer may be in purging the field of wheat at harvest, some errant seeds invariably remain. During the following year when lentils are planted, a few sprouts of wheat pop up along with the lentils. They all get harvested, dried and cleaned together. Screens are used to purify the lentils from sticks and rocks from the farm but wheat is so similar in size to lentils, they both end up in the final product.

With the root cause discovered, you’ll be happy know that the farmer has installed an additional piece of quality control equipment that ensure that customers only receive lentils in their bag. The high tech machine is a color sorting device that uses an electronic eye to detect variations in color. The machine is calibrated to allow only the hue of lentils, so anything lighter or darker—like wheat—gets blown off the conveyor with a sharp blast of air.

There may be a few remaining bags on store shelves that have here-and-there kernels of wheat, but once those are gone you’ll see consistently clean and pure lentils. Thank you so much fur alerting us to this. We wouldn’t have had such valuable insight without you. If you have any additional questions or concerns, I would be pleased to help you.


Matthew Cox

Marketing Director

Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, Inc.

Thoughts? I am extremely pleased that they took this matter seriously. I never would have guessed those mystery grains were actually wheat! I did have a feeling it must have come from the harvesting side of it.

Will you trust this machinery that can be alerted and then discard the non-lentil grain?


I have been looking at pictures of barley all day, and now I am thinking it could also be oat groats. Even if it is oat groats, the possibility of a glutening is still the same. I just wanted to clarify, that it may be this. Hope we will get the answers soon.


Thankfully Bob's Red Mill saw my post on Twitter and the VP of Operations contacted me and seemed very concerned. I am definitely impressed by their quick action.

I am sending them the barley grains I picked out of the replacement bag that was sent to me back in February. Let me tell you, it was no fun to go through it, but with a quick inspection, I picked out 14 grains.

As I mentioned below, when I was at the store the other day, just for fun, I looked at all of the red lentil packages, and could see barley throughout.

Now, if these do not look like barley, please let me know before I make a complete idiot of myself:

I will keep you updated as I receive any information. Wouldn't it be great if they could produce their beans and lentils in their gluten-free facility, so we could know they were 100% safe.


I know, I know...I can't stop talking about the barley I found in Bob's Red Mill red lentils here and here. I am sure I sound like a broken record and everyone reading this is rolling their eyes at me, and I truly do admire Bob's Red Mill and all they have done for the gluten-free community, especially their recent introduction of gluten-free oat flour. And yes, I realize that their beans are not labeled gluten-free, but I think a lot of celiacs would take it for granted that they are gluten-free, but their red lentils are not. And I am just not willing to take the chance by picking out the barley bits.

While I was at my local grocery store today, I decided to look through all the packages of BRM red lentils I could find, and every single one of them had visible barley in it. I have not noticed the same with their other beans, but I am surely staying away from the red lentils.

I wish Bob's Red Mill would make gluten-free beans to go along with the rest of their impressive line of gluten-free products, but until then, I will have to purchase beans from Arrowhead Mills, who list their beans as gluten-free.

Maybe if enough people ask for them to make gluten-free beans we can make an influence.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Yorkshire Pudding = result!

Being married to an Brit, I have had many roast dinners and many, many Yorkshire puddings. Before discovering I had celiac, M would usually cook Sunday dinner, and we would have all the traditional dishes, but with fish instead of beef or chicken. This meant he would also make the Yorkshire pudding. I love cooking and I love baking even more, and I am pretty picky, but I let him have this one. Therefore, I may have eaten enough Yorkshire puddings to feed a small country, but I had no idea how to make them myself. When M would cook, I wouldn't even go anywhere near the kitchen, it was such a treat.

I have not had Yorkshire pudding in a year and I know M doesn't want to have to deal with figuring out all the gluten-free flours and the proportions, etc... so his baking speciality has sort of disappeared, but dammit, I wanted them!! I decided I would learn and making it myself. If i I can bake all that I make, I can make Yorkshire pudding.

I sent out an email to the celiac listserv to see if anyone had any good recipes, and was a total winner! Thank you Vidalia Patterson who forwarded me a recipe from Amy Roberts, you are stars in our house tonight.

The recipe seemed easy metric conversion needed, so I thought this was the one to try, and I am so glad I did. It worked wonderfully with our dinner of roast salmon, parsnip fries, green beans and herb gravy. I could have eaten all dozen of the puddings myself, they were that good! The insides were soft just as they should be and melted in my mouth.

The ingredients are so simple, it is likely you will have everything on hand if you do any GF baking. I can't wait to make these again!

The following is Amy Robert's recipe, with my notes in italics.

2/3 cup of gluten-free flour mix (I have used Whole Food's 365 all purpose gluten-free flour mix and King Arthur gluten-free multi-purpose flour, both with excellent results)
1/3 cup of corn starch or potato starch (I used potato starch)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
2-3 eggs
(I used 2)
1 cup milk or half & half
(I used 2% milk)
Drippings from roast beef
(I used grapeseed oil)
(I added a tablespoon of melted butter.....just because..maybe to make up for the 2% milk)
Preheat oven to 425'
Combine all dry ingredients well.

Beat eggs separately, add to dry ingredients and mix well with an electric hand mixer. Next, add the milk or cream and beat for a couple of minutes (should be the consistency of thick cream).

Pour a little beef drippings or oil into each muffin cup. You really just need to line the bottom of each cup for this to work. Then put the muffin tin into the oven and heat until the oil is VERY hot.

Distribute the batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups and bake at 425' for 15 minutes. If the puddings are well risen by then, turn the oven down to 375' and finish cooking them (should be about 5-10 minutes) You can tell by looking at them how moist they are. Just cook until they look right to you.


GFIW: Zyrtec, April 12

Because this time of year calls for it.

I am not sure which is worse, how I feel from allergies, or how I feel when I first start Zyrtec, which is very spacey and groggy, but I have decided the meds trump the allergies. I take my pill at night, so I can at least sleep through some of the sleepy part.

I called Zyrtec to confirm, and the adult 10mg and the new liquid gels are both gluten-free.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Interview with stage manager Jolly Roger and living gluten-free

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with the extremely well-traveled and talented stage manager Jolly Roger, who has toured with everyone from KISS to Ministry. Not only is he a very busy at his career, but he also has celiac and must follow a strict gluten-free diet. He was able to spend some time with me and tell me a little bit about how he discovered he has celiac, and how it impacts his busy lifestyle.

How did you get into the music industry?

I always loved music, I can remember being 16, living in New York City, and reading about The Beatles’ first trip to America, in Parade magazine, so I waited at the airport for them to arrive and then when I saw them I thought they were punks with their short hair, and didn’t listen to them until the White Album. I was more into the Rolling Stones, I was going to see the Stones play when there were only seven guys on tour with them.

I always wanted to be in rock ‘n roll and in 1972 I got into the business full-time in NYC. Later I moved to Madison, WI and my first big tour was with Cheap Trick for three years and about 1,000 shows.

Since then I have worked with Cheap Trick, Kansas, Styx, Ozzy Osbourne, The Cure, Pixies, KMFDM, Ministry, Los Lobos, The BoDeans, The Smithereens, and many more that I know I am forgetting.

What do you do now?

I have worked with Jam Productions for 30 years. I have worked as crew, head electrician, rigger and lighting design. I have designed the lights at the Metro, the Vic, Park West, and the Riviera.

I have an electronic background from Vietnam, then I became really interested in lighting design and just learned as I went along, lighting is very subjective.

When did you first realize you had a problem with gluten?

My symptoms first started seven years ago at the age 55. I believe it affected me a long, long time, but I didn’t realize I was feeling different than I was supposed to be. I would drink lots of beer and eat lots of bread. I would do things in excess, clean up, do things in excess again. Someone once gave me a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts, I ate the whole thing and I was sick for days.

Working with Cheap Trick from 2002-2004, I thought I had colon cancer, or something really bad, my brother told me he was lactose intolerant, and as I was drinking milk and eating cheese daily, I cut out dairy and felt better. But in 2-3 weeks I started feeling bad again. A friend told me about celiac disease, so I quit eating gluten, and now it is all good.

I bought The Gluten-Free Bible when I came across it at Whole Foods, and learned that lactose intolerance can be brought on by gluten-intolerance. So now I continue to stay away from dairy. I dropped 175 pounds after I cut out gluten and dairy.

My daughter Val Capone (her roller derby name), on the Manic Attackers with the Windy City Rollers, also has celiac, in addition to her Crohn’s disease. My other daughter Justine, who just received her PhD in chemistry from Northwestern, has so signs of the disease.

How did you handle it, before realizing you had celiac, when you didn’t feel well?

I would only eat graham crackers for a while, which I later discovered fed it all. Then I went on a pure meat diet, which helped.

Have you been diagnosed by a doctor?

No, because I know what makes me feel better, plus I am not big on doctors. In the rock ‘n roll business, you have eight months of the year where you can afford to pay premiums for insurance and have money coming in, but for the other four months it is not always possible. Some bands provide healthcare if you start and stay with them for a while, but most music people don’t have healthcare.

What do you miss most about being able to eat gluten?

I miss White Castle, but if I eat it, it will bother me for days.

Do you feel caterers, on tour, are more aware these days with the gluten-free diet?

Caterers are becoming more aware, some are better than others.

What do you do when you travel internationally?

I stopped touring internationally before I was diagnosed, so I am lucky that way. When I did tour, I traveled to 49 states and 38 countries. My favorite countries are Australia and Canada.

What snacks do you make sure you have on hand during your busy work days?

I like Glutino apple and blueberry bars and Stonyfield O’Soy yogurt. I also like Vienna beef hotdogs and Wellshire hot dogs with corn tortillas and Dinty Moore beef stew.

What do you drink when you want a real drink?

I drink red wine, whiskey and Red Bridge beer.

Where do you like to eat out in Chicago?

Cy’s Crab House, Da Luciano, Sushi Luxe, Coobah, and Gage. I order meat with no garnish and plain baked potatoes. I also get pizza delivered from Marcello’s.

What do you do at formal dinners or family gatherings?

If at a function with a buffet, I will bring my own food, because even if I see something I like that seems safe and have a small bit, I will get sick. Or I will say I am not hungry and say ‘thanks anyway’.

At family gatherings, I will spend time in the kitchen with my gluten-free beer.

And last question, how did you get the name Jolly Roger?

I was given the name Jolly in the 9th grade for being tall like the Jolly Green Giant, I am 6’8”. While touring with KISS in 1976 Gene Simmons told me I needed a second name, he told me that I was a nice fella, but not cool enough to carry one name, so he gave me the second name, Roger, and since then I have been going by Jolly Roger.

Jolly can currently be seen working gigs at venues around Chicago, and recently worked Air, Stone Temple Pilots, Spoon, Vampire Weekend, Matt Kearney and will be working this weekend’s much anticipated Atoms for Peace (Radiohead’s Thome Yorke’s side project).

Interview with Eat to the Beat's Heidi Varah on tour catering and gluten-free diets

Eat to the Beat is an award-winning international caterer, based in the UK, who has been providing catering for over 25 years to touring bands, festivals, films crews and sporting events. Their impressive portfolio includes such clients as Coldplay, Muse, Dave Matthews Band, Flaming Lips, Take That, Snow Patrol, Glastonbury, Chicago’s own Lollapalooza, Mighty Boosh tour, Little Britain tour, Cirque de Soleil, Celebrity Big Brother to name just a few.

I have often wondered, when one has to be in charge of thousands of eager eaters, how is it possible to manage those with specific diets, such as eating gluten-free? I had the opportunity to speak with Eat to the Beat caterer Heidi Varah, about how gluten-free needs are handled on tour.

How did you get started in catering, especially catering for touring bands?

I learned to cook at Leiths School of Food and Wine. I couldn't really afford to take any catering jobs in London, as they were all so badly paid. I knew that there were touring catering companies as my best friend’s mum had worked for Eat Your Hearts Out some years before and I knew the names of a few of the companies. So I sent my CV off and I got a call from Eat To The Beat and have now been there for 16 years.

Has Eat to the Beat always offered allergy-aware/special dietary options?

If there is someone on the tour, be it crew or artist party that has a specific requirement then it is up to us to make sure their needs are met.

Do you often receive requests for gluten-free diets?

It is definitely something that we have seen more of in the last few years, although obviously there is a big difference between a celiac and someone with a wheat intolerance. I do find that if someone just has a wheat intolerance then they tend to lose their willpower at some point and eat a big slice of cake that they shouldn't!! This can be quite frustrating for us if we have taken the time to cook something specifically for them and then they decide that they would rather eat something else on the menu. Obviously an allergy is a much more serious thing and there isn't the option for falling off the wagon.

Most of the wheat-free diets have been for crew members. Lots of bands try to eliminate wheat from their diet whilst on tour, due to the associations with bloating, sluggishness, etc… but they wouldn't claim to be wheat-free.

What is the most common special diet requested?

Other than vegetarian, which we would always provide for without it being requested, I would say gluten-free or a nut allergy. Occasionally we will get a lactose-free or a shellfish allergy request. We don't really see that many vegans and if we do they are mainly Americans, it seems to be much more prevalent there than here.

How is staff trained to be knowledgeable about the gluten-free diet, and avoiding cross-contamination?

All staff have their food hygiene certificates, so cross contamination shouldn't be an issue. But we do take extra care if we know that there is someone with an allergy on the tour. Experience is the best way to learn about a gluten-free diet. Wheat and gluten are in so many things that it can be quite restricting if you don't know how to replace them with a wheat-free substitute. Like anything else, the more experience you have with something, the easier it is to deal with. Obviously each gluten-free person is different so you have to work with their likes and dislikes, for example one person may not like wheat-free pasta or someone may be vegetarian and wheat-free. Often we can adapt one of the dishes from the main menu to make it wheat-free but obviously there is no point in doing that if the person doesn't like that dish.

I know that if there were a beef and mushroom pie on the main menu that someone would like to have that but in a wheat-free option, we would make some pastry with gluten-free flour and thicken the gravy with a wheat-free gravy thickener so that they wouldn't miss out on a dish that they like.

Pretty much everything that we do can be provided in a gluten-free way. Not everything can be substituted, if you were making a beef and Guinness casserole you can't find wheat-free Guinness but of course you could always leave it out.

Nearly everything that we do can be made to be wheat-free. You can replace pasta with wheat-free pasta, in Asian food you can use a wheat-free tamari instead of soy sauce, pastry can be made with gluten-free flour.

Communication is the key, there is always five minutes in the morning to talk to who ever it is and give them some options so that they get something that they want that day.

Is there someone who checks every product used, on tour, for gluten?

Yes, between the head chef and whoever is running the tour there will usually be a discussion about what any special diets will be getting. We definitely use trusted products, we are very fortunate that the supermarkets in the UK have great wheat- and gluten-free substitutes. It's not so easy in Europe though so we have to stock up before we go there.

When working in countries where English is not the primary language, do you work with someone in advance about products to buy, or do you take ingredients with you to avoid any problems?

When we are working in Europe we have a local catering runner who is supposed to have a good understanding of English. They would be able to go to any specialty shops for us and try and get what we need, luckily using the internet it is quite easy to translate things these days. It is relatively easy to get basic wheat-free products in Europe, such as wheat-free pasta, but more specialized ingredients are a bit trickier. I generally keep my eyes open when I am doing the main supermarket shop and if I see something that I think we could use or may need I pick it up and carry it in our dry stores.

Do you bake gluten-free items from scratch, or do you get them from gluten-free food manufacturers?

We do both. I would buy some wheat-free biscuits for snacks through the day and would make a wheat-free desert with substitute ingredients if necessary.

Being that catering is often the first one in, last one out of the venue, how long is your average workday on tour?

We are definitely the first ones in but we are not always the last to finish. We will generally have the main rig packed and ready to go by about 10 PM, we then go for a shower, check emails, watch the show, etc.. until it is time for us to pack down the tea and coffee and wait to clear the dressing rooms. I would say that our average working day would be from 7 AM until midnight making 15 hours.

Since you cook for a living, do you enjoy cooking at home, and what are some of your favorite things to cook?

I do cook at home, I never get bored with cooking, in fact it was the only thing that kept me sane when my baby was 12 days overdue. Unfortunately, my husband is quite a fussy eater so I try and work around that, but my favorite things to cook at home are cakes. Particularly cupcakes as I love decorating them, I have loads of piping nozzles and different decorations that I pick up whenever I see them, so if anyone has a birthday that I know, they are guaranteed a cake of some description. Generally there is always a pot of soup on the go in our house; my husband definitely seems more adventurous if something is called a soup!!

What are you favorite utensils?

My favorite utensils at home would be my piping bag and blow torch, and at work I couldn't live without a mouli, for perfect mashed potato, and my Global meat cleaver.